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Primate calls for abuse payouts

06 December 2013

THE Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Phillip Aspinall, has called for federal laws that would force Churches to compensate victims of sexual abuse.

Giving evidence at a hearing of the national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Dr Aspinall said that it would be "much quicker and simpler" for the Anglican Church if there were a "uniform, mandatory compensation scheme" that set the levels of financial settlement. This would force dioceses to deal properly with compensation.

Dr Aspinall was one of a number of Anglican leaders called to appear at the Commission's "case-study" hearing into the response of the diocese of Grafton to claims of child sexual abuse at the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore (News, 13 September).

Outside the hearing, Dr Aspinall was critical of the diocese's responses to abuse allegations, saying that its senior clerics had treated the Church's procedures with contempt. He had learnt more in eight days at the Commission hearing than in seven years in his dealings with the diocese, he said. Many of his letters to the former Bishop of Grafton, the Rt Revd Keith Slater, had gone unanswered.

The hearing was told that the diocese had failed to show compassion to the survivors who had been abused at the children's home by priests and others over several decades from 1944. Survivors who took the diocese to court in 2007 were forced into a settlement that gave them only $10,000 each. The diocese had focused entirely on its own financial problems, and allowed its "pastoral concern" to "fall entirely by the wayside", Dr Aspinall said.

Earlier, Bishop Slater, who resigned in May this year, publicly apologised for his actions, and told the Commission that he was "totally humiliated".

The Commission also heard that technical problems and a backlog meant that, nationally, the names of possibly hundreds of church workers were yet to be entered on the Anglican Church's national register of those accused of sexual misconduct.

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